If You Think Meditation Is About ‘Feeling Good’ You’re Wrong

The inner battle we all need to fight

When I started meditation, my life looked like a battlefield. I was stuck between investors, not having a clue what the future of my startup would look like.

When I started my company, I thought that the day we’ll raise funds, would be a day of celebration. But reality clearly showed me otherwise. Since our existing incubator did not agree to the terms of the new investors, the future looked bleak.

I and my co-founder had the honor (or obligation) to resolve this conflict. The amount of politics was insane. It seemed more like a board room battle in a cliche corporation than a simple funding deal. This is when I realized how startups work in reality. I knew it wouldn’t be all roses but what I didn’t know was there would be so much bad blood.

To help myself get through this battle that I woke up to every day, I started taking meditation seriously. I’d always been on the edge and was only erratic in my practice.

Yet, now I felt the need to have something to cling to. Something that would help me wither the storms while stay centered at the same time.

I thought of meditation as a technique of relaxation. Open the app, put on your headphones, listen to the 10-minute audio and you’re done. When you open your eyes, everything would be chill, the world would slow down and you’ll be happy. Or so I thought.

Eventually, I got through the nightmare that the funding deal turned out to be and left the company. We did not end on good terms with either of the investors. Nevertheless, the battle was over.

But soon, another battle began inside of me.

The battle between my higher self and the lower self.

The Wisdom of the Gita

The Bhagavad Gita is the best-known scripture often affiliated with Hinduism. It is lovingly referred to as the Gita and was originally part of the great Indian epic Mahabharata. Its date of composition, therefore, is closely associated with that of the epic — c. 5th-3rd century BCE.

The Gita is a dialogue between the warrior-prince Arjuna and the god Krishna who’s serving as his charioteer in the battle of Kurukshetra. The battle is between Arjuna’s families and allies (the Pandavas) and those of the prince Duryodhana and his family (the Kauravas) and their allies.

What makes this battle so difficult is that the two sides are related by blood. The Kauravas and Pandavas are cousins and there are mutual friends and family members fighting on both sides for the rule of the kingdom.

When Arjuna sees that he’s fighting his own relatives, he laments the fact that he’s to kill them and their friends. He believes that killing them will only lead to sin and even if the kingdom is won by them, it won’t be of any use — for it will be tainted with the blood of their own kin.

The Gita is thus a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna on what constitutes right action, proper understanding, and, ultimately, the meaning of life and nature of the Divine.

Why did I give you this introduction of the Gita? Because there’s a subtle truth to it that most people don’t understand.

If you’ve ever heard of quotes from the Gita, it tells a lot of the similar things that other scriptures say — to do no harm, be devoted to God, take the right action, and so on. But when people read it, they’re perplexed as to why Krishna urges Arjuna to take on the battle and fulfill his duty.

This is the reason why many Westerners look down on the Gita. They think it’s obnoxious and hypocritical. “It tells to avoid war in one stanza and then urges Arjuna to fight in another. What’s going on?”

These doubts are normal. And they sure seem confusing if you don’t understand the subtleties involved here.

You see, the war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas is not to be taken literally. It’s a battle between a man’s higher and lower nature.

The Pandavas represent the higher self and the Kauravas represent the lower self.

Now let’s see everything from our new perspective. If the battle is between our own good and bad qualities, why should we shy away from fighting it?

The part where Arjuna laments about killing his own kin is symbolic of our reluctance to kill our bad habits.

Think about it. We all have bad habits. But do we want to give them up with every atom of our being? Somewhere, deep inside, we like them. This is why we’ve continued to repeat them in the first place.

But to progress in life and to get closer to your higher self, you need to kill these habits and tendencies.

The real battle is thus going on inside you. Your lower qualities are pulling you down and the higher qualities are pulling you up. You are the warrior here. The side you give in to will be the side that controls you.

The Spiritual Battlefield

When a person starts to meditate (or do anything different for that matter) there’s resistance. But when a person steps on the spiritual path, the resistance is not only from outward forces. It’s from the inner forces as well.

The outer forces are your friends, and families — the people you surround yourself with. Seeing that you’re doing something radically different, they will not understand you. They may still love you but they won’t get the motivation behind your actions.

The inner forces are your own habits and tendencies that you’ve accumulated over time (even in all past lives). You see, there are both good and bad qualities within us. And we decide who wins every day.

Even though outer forces are troublesome (they are quite troublesome for me) there are other problematic things to worry about. You can get rid of the outer forces with little effort. But the inner forces are the ones that are the most difficult to conquer.

This is important to understand because most of us think of meditation and the spiritual path to be all sweet and flowery. You might be tempted to think, “Only if I could leave my work and meditate in seclusion, I’ll progress faster.”

But in this thought, you fail to take into account the demons resting inside you. Part of the reason we think in this manner is we see the path as escapism, not another war that we take on. We think of monks and sages as people who’ve found refuge in their spiritual practices to escape from the world.

Yet, what we don’t know is they’re fighting the highest battle there is — the battle between our own higher and lower tendencies.

The Spiritual Path Takes A Lot of Power

We like to think of saints and sages as kind, tender, and joyful. Never do we think about them as strong, firm, and powerful.

Ken Wilber writes,

Think of the great yogis, saints and sages from Moses to Christ to Padmasambhava. They were not feeble-mannered milquetoasts, but fierce movers and shakers from bullwhips in the Temple to subduing entire countries. They rattled the world on its own terms, not in some pie-in-the-sky piety; many of them instigated massive social revolutions that have continued for thousands of years.

That perfectly encapsulates what we’re talking about.

Let’s make this more relatable. What do you think when I say “Peace?”

Are you thinking of a time when you’ll finally retire from the stress of your work, buy a beachside (or riverside?) house, enjoy your cocktails, and play with your grandchildren?

It’s safe to say you have some version of this narrative in your mind. Most of us think of peace as avoidance of pain and discomfort. That’s not a wrong definition perse. Yet, it doesn’t bring us the happiness we long for.

Let’s say you do get to live the ideal retirement. A beachside house with your spouse and days spent relaxing, reading, meeting friends and family, etc.

What do you talk about? Ironically, you’ll talk about life instances that are far from peaceful. You talk about all the struggles you faced in your life — the business that failed, the near-miss with cancer that you may have had, or a similarly exciting, and dangerous experience.

As you talk about such instances or hear similar anecdotes from others, you can’t help but compare your life right now to the life you lived before.

Imagine realizing this every day for the next decade. The pain of knowing that your life, though free of troubles, is not as happening as it was. In other words, what started as an exciting adventure of relaxation, turned into a life of decay and boredom.

This is not the peace that we’re looking for. The peace we really need is dynamic.

And this dynamic peace can only come from fighting the right battles and being victorious.

That is as true of life as it is of the spiritual path. Jesus said, “I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). We need not the peace of the Lord but His sword to fight the battles and earn the peace. That is the dynamic peace we’re after.

This dynamic peace comes from slaying our inner demons, as the Gita talks about. It cannot come by hiding inside a house surrounded by walls or running away from the battle.

By overcoming your lower tendencies, you can expand your consciousness. This expansion is like a blinding light that banishes all the obstacles that stand in your path.

To conclude, progress should be seen as overcoming, not as escapism. There’s no magic slide that will open the gates of heaven for you. There are, however, mountains to climb.

The Takeaway

Although it wasn’t clear from the get-go, this post was meant for people who are on the spiritual path or beginning their journey on the path, to understand that it’s indeed a battlefield.

It’s not a life of relaxation, but it’s a life of battle. Many people being this path due to an inner calling of peace, bliss, and joy. And as ironic as it may seem, the only way to do that is to fight your own demons fiercely to get there.

The peace of victory over your lower qualities is much greater and dynamic than the fleeting sense of peace that comes from escaping your duties and battles.

———————-s Are you serious about becoming the best version of yourself? Get your free 5-day email course to Master The Art Of Personal Transformation

Written on December 7, 2020